If evil has a face, it’s dressed like a clown. And the evilest clown ever made is the Joker. Introduced in Batman #1 in 1940, the Joker has been a persistent menace in Batman’s life and has had the most devastating effects on Batman’s world. He’s killed one partner (who came back), crippling another (who got better) and called up mayhem at every turn. Randomness and chaos to Batman’s meticulousness and order, the Joker has done almost every heinous and outlandish thing you can imagine to push Batman (and occasionally Commissioner Gordon) over the thin blue line of justice and into revenge and murder.
Even the many origins of the Joker are conflicted and almost random or as the Joker puts it, “If I have to have a past…I prefer it to be multiple choice”. However, be he a failed comedian, a vicious gangster or a small-time hood that got duped into wearing a red hood on a failed robbery, the Joker is most often a vicious and sadistic character who takes great delight in his mayhem. That somehow makes him a compelling character to watch and a popular figure in all aspects of pop culture. In the action figure world, he has had a number of interesting portrayals to match the evolving oddness of his character over his 75 years of history. Here are ten of the most interesting portrayals of the Clown Prince of Crime.
Batman’s Arch Enemy Joker released by Mego in 1973
Heavily influenced by the Filmation Batman cartoon of the 70s, which itself was influenced by the campy 60s live action show, this Joker is more a dapper jester than psychopath here. This one piece costume with a separate coat features the waistcoat and string tie suit that was the character’s official “uniform” in the comics of the time. Joker is one of the few villains that Mego tackled in their run and made sure to market it specifically with their hero character.
Kenner Super Powers Joker released by Kenner in 1984
Dressed in the same purple tuxedo with striped pants, yellow waistcoat and string tie that is common in the comics and sporting the same wide and open grin, this figure comes with an amazing green mallet. It has an opening on one side and a stylized “J” on the other. The handle side features the Joker’s face and the handle is his nose. This has to be at least an inspiration if not the direct corollary to the large mallet that Harley Quinn uses. In one of the oddest additions to the character in the comics of that time, the Joker’s suit jacket has tails. This figure also comes with tails, but for some inexplicable reason, the tails are a removable separate piece. The only obvious reason for this is that the removal of the tails allows the character to sit down.
Joker 1989 Mime Version Sixth Scale Figure released by Hot Toys
This sculptural figure details a specific moment in the 1989 Batman film. The Joker/Jack Napier, as portrayed by the legendary Jack Nicholson, acts as a mime outside a courthouse and kills a mobster with a sharpened feather. Dressed in a top hat, tails, and spats, the black and white inspired outfit harkens back to a silent film representation of the classic clown. His usually rictus grin is now covered in white except for heart-shaped red lips in the center. A huge flower and white gloves complete the outfit.
Batman the Animated Series Joker
Released by DC Collectibles in 2014
The simplified figure matched the Art Deco overly simplified art of the seminal Batman the Animated Series. The classic purple striped tuxedo is now a simple purple suit with a ribbon tie. It still includes the white gloves, white spats, and acid-spewing flower. What makes this figure, and in many ways, the character is the amazing face. With the half-eyed stare and sinister grin, there is nothing funny about this version of the Joker. Even though the character never killed in the animated series, obviously, you can see that this Joker is not only capable of senselessly killing someone, but would thoroughly enjoy it.
The Joker (The Dark Knight) released by MediCom Toy in 2008
This Joker as played by the incredible Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight. The well-sculpted face shows the iconic scars of this version of the character and the hastily applied grease-paint, eye, and lip makeup. The custom suit and trench coat are film accurate and tailored perfectly to the figure. Once again, the face is what makes the figure. He never looks at you, instead of looking out of the tops of his eyes and his head tilts in the direction of his greasy green hair, giving him a look of equal parts menace and curiosity at either you or the hand of cards that are included with the figure.
The Joker Sixth Scale Figure released by Sideshow Collectibles
This highly detailed sculpted figure is presented in the customarily stylish purple tuxedo with tails, orange waistcoat, and flower but the figure has some interesting things that make it unique. The first is the golden and black cane that he is leaning on. It gives the body a stronger sense of stability than some of the freestanding figures. Again, it is the sinister face that makes the figure a standout. The furrowed brow and arched eyebrows give the most sinister look of any figure yet. The grin is at its broadest ever, pulling back to reveal more teeth than should be possible.
The Joker From Hush released by MediCom Toy in 2012
This Joker is featured in the Batman maxi-part story Hush with designs by artist and DC Comics co-publisher Jim Lee. This version is a skinnier, lankier and taller version of the character. There are perfect folds throughout the figure to give it a heightened reality and the tails are swept up by an imaginary wind. Slight alterations have been made to the classic tuxedo; making it one solid shade of purple, removing the pinstripes and adding a huge green bowtie that draws you immediately toward the figures face. The hair is swept back and the mouth is open either with a riotous grin or an enraged yell, either of which is frightening. His “bang” gun fits perfectly in his hand with the flag extended. Past history tells us though that the flag will end up in your chest if he pulls that trigger one more time.
The Batman Hammer Strike Joker released by Mattel
This Joker is a major departure from every other rendition on the list. This Joker is a manic, erratic and acrobatic character. He is wearing a straight jacket over a purple shirt with swirling designs and ripped sleeves. He is also wearing fingerless gloves, black pants and no shoes. His yellow-toothed grin is impossibly wide and his hair is pushed wildly back on his head. This figure comes with a spiked hammer that shoots a spear from the center. There is nothing subtle about this rendition of the character.
The New 52 Joker released by DC Collectibles
This is by far the most brutal Joker we have seen over the course of the character’s history. Joker cut off his own face and is now wearing it as a mask with staples and straps to hold it on. Then disguised (if you can call it that) in his Joe’s Garage outfit during the now legendary “Death of the Family” comic arc, he captures and tortures the entire Batman Family including Robin, Nightwing, Red Hood, Batgirl and their butler Alfred Pennyworth. The figure is complete with the frighteningly real strapped on the face, the blue and common looking Joe’s Garage outfit, tool belt, various tools, orange socks and thick gloves bottomed out with work shoes.
#44 The Joker released by Funko in 2013
Funko has always been one of the most prolific companies in creating multiple versions of characters, especially those in the Batman franchise. That is also very true with the Joker. Funko has created Jokers from the comics and films. My favorite version is this one from the 60s Batman series as portrayed by Latin actor Caesar Romero. Dressed in the classic tuxedo, this rendition leans a little more pink than purple. What makes this version special is the facial hair that is peeking through the white greasepaint on the Joker’s face. Famously, the very proud Latin actor refused to shave his trademark mustache to play the role of the Joker in the 60s series. To accommodate, it was just covered over and never referred to again. This figure shows small tuffs of a mustache just below the nose.
In the end, it’s easy to see why the public, the superhero community and many villains in the DC Universe universally fear the Joker. Having taken on the entire Justice League, joker-ized a number of villains and at one time made himself Emperor with the stolen powers of the 5th Dimensional imp Mr. Mxyzptlk, he is a force, to say the least. There is a school of thought that a hero is only as good as the villain they overcome. If this is true, with the unbridled chaos and mayhem that The Joker creates, Batman must truly be the greatest hero ever created!